If there was one author I would recommend to every household library, I’d definitely recommend Roald Dahl. With dozens work under his name —  children’s stories for early readers and middle readers, children’s poetry collections,  short story anthologies, novels, memoirs, autobiographical essays, cookbooks, film scripts, and even guidebooks — each member of the family will find a book to enjoy.

I’m a big Roald Dahl fan, and I grew up reading his books, from the classic children’s books to the collections of twisted tales (which I really really love!). For the last 24-hour read-a-thon, I made sure to include some Roald Dahl books in the lineup.  His books are quick reads, and they never fail to crack me up, so I included three books this time around: Fantastic Mr. Fox; The Giraffe and the Pelly and Me(both I hadn’t read yet); and Esio Trot (which I have not read since high school), books 159-161 for 2009.

fantastic foxFantastic Mr. Fox is a farmyard tale about a trickster hero, Mr. Fox. Mr. Fox’s foxhole gives him access to three farms belonging to three mean farmers: Boggis, who keeps a chicken house; Bunce, who has a storehouse of ducks, geese, and vegetables; and Bean, who keeps turkeys and has a cellar stocked with delicious cider.

Mr. Fox has been raiding the farms at night to feed his family, and the farmers have had it with the thievery so they decide to exterminate Mr. Fox. When Mr. Fox ventures out of his foxhole, they manage to shoot off his tail, but our hero thinks fast on his feet to escape the farmers’ wrath.

It’s an exciting and comical adventure that ends well for Mr. Fox and his brood as well as his animal friends … er, except for the chickens, the ducks, the geese, and the turkeys, that is.

The movie adaptation was released in the US recently, and I was excited about it, as George Clooney  and Meryl Streep voice Mr. and Mrs. Fox, but it looks like it won’t be shown here (boo! and it looks like they aren’t showing the Cirque du Freak movie either! boo!) so I’ll just have to erm, procure, a copy somewhere. The story’s been beefed up and techy-fied, but it still looks interesting:

giraffeI read an excerpt of The Giraffe and the Pelly and Me in my Roald Dahl Treasury and I’d been looking for this book for a long time at the bargain book store because I didn’t want to buy it full price, me being such a cheapskate (hehe).

I finally found it a few months back and read it for the first time during the read-a-thon, and it’s a charming story about a boy named Billy who makes friends with an unlikely trio composed of a giraffe, a pelican and a monkey.

The animals are in the window-washing business, known as The Ladderless Window Cleaning Company. The giraffe, with what appears to be an extendable neck, is the ladder; the pelican, with a magically elastic beak, is the bucket, and the monkey is the washer. Billy joins the company just as it is engaged to clean the 677 windows on the estate of the Duke of Hampshire — an unexpected adventure that yields, for all of them, a reward beyond measure.

It’s a charming story that sparkles with classic Roald Dahl warmth, exuberance and humor, sprinkled with a liberal dose of silliness.


esiotrotThe third book, Esio Trot, is another silly story involving Mr. Hoppy, Mrs. Silver, an “ancient spell,” Alfie the tortoise (and 140 other tortoises), and that thing that makes the world go round — love!

Mr. Hoppy has  been in love with his down-the-balcony neighbor Mrs. Silver for the longest time, but she only has eyes for Alfie. Mr. Hoppy is too shy to ask her out, so he devises an ingenious (and crazy… but sweet!) plan to get Mrs. Silver to notice him!

I love the “spell” in this book and I always have fun chanting it aloud:


It’s a bit controversial, actually, considering what Mr. Hoppy does (spell + 140 tortoises, go figure!) to win Mrs. Silver over, but all’s well in the end, even for little Alfie (and anyway, it’s partly Mrs. Silver’s fault that she couldn’t tell the difference, haha, and it was all well-intentioned anyway) but this is one of the absolute funniest Roald Dahl books for me (also The Twits and The Vicar of Nibbleswicke) and it still has me in stitches even though I know what happens in the story.


I’ve been reading Roald Dahl since I was in third grade, and I still reread my Roald Dahl books from time to time, and enjoy them just as much. Not surprising, as Roald Dahl says in the farewell song of The Giraffe and the Pelly and Me:

“We have tears in our eyes
As we wave our goodbyes,
We so loved being with you, we three.
So do please now and then
Come and see us again,
The Giraffe and the Pelly and me.

All you do is to look
At a page in this book
Because that’s where we always will be.

No book ever ends
When it’s full of your friends

The Giraffe and the Pelly and me.”


My copies: all trade paperback

My ratings: Fantastic Mr. Fox, 4/5 stars; The Giraffe and the Pelly and Me, 5/5 stars; Esio Trot, 5/5 stars

8 thoughts on “Dahl-a-thon”

  1. My daughters have watched the movie “Matilda”, based on Roald Dahl’s great book maybe a dozen times-When they were 11, 9, and 6 we read the book aloud to them and they demanded we read it all the way through-we have maybe 10 of his books which the girls, especially the middle one, love-And for sure adults will like them also

  2. Roald Dahl is one of my all-time fave author for children’s books. My son has most of his books. He’s 13 now but he still reads them again from time to time. One of his favorites is “Boy”, a sort of autobiography. Dahl’s is one really interesting life.

  3. @Mel – I love Matilda, because I can relate to her love for books. Hahaha, I was always holed up in the library and loaded down with books to take home when I was younger :)

    @Jo- I have Boy too, and yeah, Dahl really led such a colorful life, and you can find a lot of his experiences incorporated into his stories.

    @Mel and Jo – I suggest you and your kids try out his grown up short story anthologies — a different type of humor but also a wonderful discovery to a reader who’s grown up reading Dahl. It really underscores the breadth of his writing prowess. The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar is the bridge, the stories mature with Skin and Other Stories; The Umbrella Man and other stories, Kiss Kiss and his other compilations :)

  4. @Myx- The Witches was one of the first Dahl books I read and I loved it (although if I had to choose a favorite among his children’s books it’ll probably be The BFG).

    I read The Witches before I saw the movie. While I liked Anjelica Huston, the movie was pretty boring outside of The Grand High Witch… The book was so much better and scarier!

    I still get the creeps every time I go through the part in the book that enumerates the ways to spot a witch — I love the book’s detail on the wig-rash, crinkly nostrils, inky spit, gnarled hands and square toes! And getting caught at the RSPCA meeting was very very scary!!!

    Also, the movie ending was a total cop-out! The mouse-ness of the boy in the end was a signature Roald Dahl twist, and the boy and his grandma had such brilliant plans of raiding the headquarters of the Grand High Witches in every country, and the movie totally ruined it. In fact, Roald Dahl hated it so much he rallied outside cinemas telling people not to watch it!

    The good news is that there is talk of a more faithful (stop-motion animation) remake by Alfonso Cuaron and Guillermo del Toro, although it’s still under wraps. I do hope they model the Grand High Witch after Huston

  5. @Mika – Hehe, I’m glad I didn’t watch it when I was young. Willy Wonka was my favorite though.

    @Stephanie- I’m sure she’ll love it!

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